Royal (Ball) Python Care (Python regius)
By Chris M Jones
Royal pythons have become an extremely popular pet
snake, particularly in the last decade. With the proper
care, the reward of keeping these beautiful snakes is
enormous, but I would like to stress that many individual
specimens can be very fussy feeders. For that reason
alone I believe this species is not an ideal beginners
Royal Pythons are one of the most common snake
species seen in Rescue Centres around the UK. The
reason for this, is that most of the royal pythons bought
each year are either wild caught or captive farmed
individuals. Captive farming is when gravid or ‘pregnant’
females are captured and then kept in captivity until they
lay their eggs. The females are then usually released and
the eggs are incubated. The babies are then exported.
Very rarely will they be fed until they reach their
destination. Importers and wholesalers of reptiles have
become better over the years, and will feed the babies
several times before they are sold. Many however, are
sold without ever having a meal. Being virtually from the
wild, they have very strong basic instinct, and taking dead
mice as prey is not something they will be used to. I hope
the following care sheet will help guide you through the
right steps in caring for your royal python.
When keeping any snake as a pet, you generally want to
be able to view the snake from the outside of its
enclosure, in the most natural surroundings you can
offer. This will be more aesthetically pleasing and also aid
in the general condition of the snake. If the snake likes its
surroundings, it will have a better feeding response and
generally grow quicker. A larger vivarium also offers more
interest to the python’s life, and by adding branches and
other natural products you will enhance the quality of life
the snake has, and stop it from becoming lethargic and
overweight. Also, being stronger it should have more of a
resistance to any viral infections or any other problems
that it may encounter later in life.
For an adult Royal python, a vivarium 90cm Length x
45cm Width x 45cm Height is ample. Contrary to popular
belief, and propaganda spread by various campaigners,
you can actually have too large of an enclosure,
especially for royal pythons. The reason for this, is that
they are very prone to stress, and being in an excessively
large enclosure can scare them. Imagine in the wild they
are constantly hiding from predators, then, when they feel
it’s safe in the dark of night, they will venture out to hunt
for food. Once they find their food, they will return to the
safety of their secure hiding place until the next time
around. They may also leave their den for sloughing their
skin or finding a mate at certain times of the year. If
however, your royal python is behaving normally and
feeds regularly; trying a larger enclosure can only be a
good thing. Providing the snake does all this, than bigger
Hatchling royal pythons should be placed into a smaller
enclosure. It should be no longer than the length of the
snake, and must have at least two hiding areas. When
the snake is first purchased, it is a good idea to cover
over the cage with something dark. This will keep the
snake as stress free as possible. This can then be
removed once the snake has eaten its first meal.
Snake enclosures can be made from a number of
materials. Most commonly used is a melamine coated
wood which covers all sides except the front, which has
glass sliding doors. Aquariums can too be used, although
a specialist lid should be bought or made rather than the
original aquarium lid. It is essential when thinking about
what type of enclosure you use, you think about these 6
1) Safety – Can the snake or owner injure itself from the
enclosure or any appliances held within?
2) Secure – Can the snake escape through any small
hole or cavity?
3) Size – Will the enclosure be appropriately sized?
4) Heating – Is the enclosure able to regulate the
5) Humidity – Will the enclosure last well in humid
6) Hygienic – Will the enclosure build up a lot of bacteria
in small cavities? Is it easy to clean?
By following the steps above, you can have a suitable
enclosure made from a variety of materials.
Décor in your tank serves two purposes. First being extra
cover for your snake, second making the vivarium more
aesthetically pleasing. When choosing décor, think about
the safety of the snake. Make sure that whatever you
decide to use, it is securely fixed and that no rocks, wood
or anything heavy can fall and possibly injure, or even kill
the snake. You must also make sure that everything used
is parasite free. If anything has been picked up from
outside, or has originally come from outside, such as cork
bark, you should either boil it, or place the item in the
oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30
minutes. Freezing works for some parasites, however
others have been known to survive months in freezing
conditions. Some parasites found in English conditions
last winters in minus temperatures, so it is not entirely
Once all your décor is parasite free, it is then safe to
place inside your enclosure. As a general rule, if you can
put pressure on an item to knock it down, an adult royal
python is also capable of doing this. When positioning
rocks or heavy objects, make sure they are completely
secure. If it is still uneasy, screw them or use superglue to
fix them securely. If it is not possible, the rule is simple:
Do not place the item in the vivarium!
If you decide to go for a large enclosure, you must
provide plenty of cover and hiding areas. A hiding place
can be anything from an ice cream tub with a hole cut out
to a naturalistic piece of cork bark. There are many
brands of fake plants and décor you can use which is
both safe for the animal and pleasing to the eye. Cork
bark is available from almost any reptile pet shop in the
UK, and can be ordered in if they do not have it in stock.
This is excellent cover for any reptile and is 100% natural.
One thing you must consider when thinking about the size
of the vivarium, is the bigger you go, the more hiding
areas you must provide. I recommend at least one hiding
place per foot in length of the enclosure.
NOTE: Never use sticky tape in an enclosure; this is an
accident waiting to happen. Believe me; removing sticky
tape from any snake is no easy task!
Royal pythons require a thermal gradient, meaning they
must be allowed to move around the enclosure to find
their required temperature. The hot end of the enclosure
should be 88-90ºF while the cool end should be
approximately 78-80ºF. During the night, the temperature
should drop to a more constant overall temperature of 78-
In my opinion, the ideal way of heating a royal python
enclosure is to use a power plate. This is a small thin
square plate, about 25mm thick which is screwed into the
top of the vivarium. It does not need to be protected, as
there is no way a snake can grip onto it. It is almost
invisible to the eye as it simply sits on the ceiling of the
vivarium. The only brand available in the UK is HabiStat
Reptile Radiator; it is 75 Watts and is sufficient for any
vivarium up to 4ft long and possibly larger. It produces no
light and therefore in a vivarium you will need a form of
lighting as well. A power plate should be used in
conjunction with a HabiStat Pulse Proportional
Thermostat, which will stop the power reaching the power
plate as soon as the temperature goes above the setting,
and turn back on as soon as it is too cool. This is one of
the most accurate thermostats on the market today.
Ceramic heaters, spot bulbs and heat mats are also ways
of heating a vivarium. These all have their advantages
and disadvantages, but in my opinion, none quite weight
out to be as good as a power plate.
Royal Pythons are primarily nocturnal, meaning they
venture out in the dark of night. This is when their main
predators are sleeping, and their prey is awake. This is
not to say though, that they never see the sun, or any
form of lighting for that matter.
Having artificial light in a vivarium is aesthetically pleasing
to the owner, and is a good addition to any snake’s
enclosure. They will use this as a photo-period, and their
regular time clock will generally adjust to the settings on
which you have your light set to.
They do not require any form of special lighting, such as
a D3 Ultra-Violet light commonly used for diurnal species.
An Arcadia Natural Sunlight Fluorescent Lamp is a good
form of lighting. This comes in lengths of 12” up to 48”
and I suggest you use the largest size able to fit inside
Royal Pythons are native to North Africa. The humidity is
important for this species, but an overly high, constant
humidity will cause problems. A 30-50% humidity should
be offered, although perhaps raising it slightly when
coming up to a slough will aid in shedding it’s skin
properly. This can be achieved by slightly misting the
Hatchling Royal Pythons are capable of feeding on rat
pups or small mice. As they grow, so should their food. I
recommend using a food item the same size as the girth
of the snake. The girth is the diameter of the widest part
of the snake, which should be the middle part of the body.
Hatchling royal pythons should be fed once a week on
one or two appropriately sized food items. As they grow,
their food should too increase in size, but not in quantity.
As an adult, their food intake can slow down to once
every two weeks, and a larger rat should be offered.
Royal pythons can be incredibly fussy feeders. Many are
wild caught or captive farmed, which is often the result of
their tricky feeding habits. In my experience, the one trick
that works most the time to get them feeding, is to heat up
the food item and offer the food using the ‘tease’ feed
method. Please refer to our ‘Problematic Snake Feeding
Page’ for more detailed information on how to get your
Royal Python feeding.
By Chris Jones
Director of Pet Club UK Ltd.
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